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Brewer's Reserve Bourbon Barrel Barleywine - Central Waters Brewing Co.

Not Rated.
Brewer's Reserve Bourbon Barrel BarleywineBrewer's Reserve Bourbon Barrel Barleywine

Educational use only; do not reuse.

574 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 574
Hads: 2,125
Avg: 4.28
pDev: 17.52%
Wants: 716
Gots: 641 | FT: 77
Brewed by:
Central Waters Brewing Co. visit their website
Wisconsin, United States

Style | ABV
American Barleywine |  11.50% ABV

Availability: Winter

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: Atron67 on 03-02-2008

Aged for 1 year in used bourbon barrels.
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
Reviews: 574 | Hads: 2,125
Photo of Sparty1224
3.99/5  rDev -6.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Serving: 12 oz. bottle poured into a Cigar City snifter. Bottled on 1/15/15, making this exactly 2 months old.

A: Pours a nice, dark mahogany. Turns a reddish-orange up to the light. Thin, off-white head rings the beer.

S: Caramel, butterscotch, pecan. Lots of fresh oak and bourbon.

T: Lots of caramel, butterscotch, vanilla, maple, oak. Very, very boozy and hot in the finish. Not like a bourbon heat, just pure alcohol.

M: Full. Good carbonation. Way imbalanced with the booze on this one. Very spicy and alcoholic on the finish.

O: Not sure if this was left in the barrels too long or what, but this thing is hot. Recently had BBS, and that was way more enjoyable and balanced compared to this. The heat just overshadows the base beer, that I think is otherwise pretty good. Nice, English-style Barleywine. Great nose on it. Just way to spicy and boozy on the finish.

Recommendation: Somewhat overhyped for me. Way better BA Barleywine options out there. Would try to get a hold of their Bourbon Barrel Stout or Cherry Stout instead. Those are fantastic.

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Photo of maedhros09
3.98/5  rDev -7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Look: Pours deep ruby amber mahogany with a couple fingers if head that settle to a film spicy caramel and dried fruit
Smell: Spicy caramel and acidic dark fruit with a hint of vanilla and char.
Taste: Sweetness dominates with moderate hops presence. Complex and spicy. Feel: Thick, tingly and warm, smooth
Overall: I was a little wary of the barrel aging, uncertain of how strong the bourbon flavors would be, but actually it came out as a traditional, nicely balanced and complex barleywine. The alcohol is definitely a big player here and is stronger than I prefer. Especially considering the price I would rather get a pack of SN Bigfoot, but this is a nice sipper.

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Photo of SD-Alefan
4.41/5  rDev +3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2014 bottle poured on 3-7-15
Pours a caramel-red color with a tan head and lots of residue.
The aroma is all caramel and booze with hints of dark fruit and molasses. A hint of earthy hops in the background and a bit of spice.
The taste wallops you alongside the head. Even with a year on it, there's still a big bourbon boozy bite with caramel, vanilla and dark fruits following. Figs and dates. As it warms, hints of vanilla and oak and a bit of bitterness.
Full bodied and sticky.
A really good American Barleywine.

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Photo of ksimons
4.4/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

2015 Vintage
A-a murky dark caramel color with some visible sediment and a thin layer of khaki head

S-dark fruits, bourbon soaked raisins, brown sugar, smells all get deeper as the beer warms

T-large bourbon presence with caramel malt, dark fruits, vanilla, and a light bitterness in the finish. Very well hidden alcohol.

M-medium to full body, sticky, light carbonation

Overall truly delicious, probably the best barleywine I have had

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Photo of jwc215
4.15/5  rDev -3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2015 vintage - Poured into a tulip glass:

Pours slightly hazed light brown with a very well-retained creamy tan head. Lacing sticks.

The smell is of rich caramel/toffee, dates, figs, prunes, brown sugar and bourbon/wood.

The taste is of caramel with dates/figs/prunes. Booze and bourbon/oak stand out in the sharp finish.

It has a full-body. Black pepper/booze and dry wood linger on the palate.

This one is very young - the alcohol really stands out. It may take some time to mellow, though it is certainly enjoyable now. The aroma itself is simply wonderful!

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Photo of BoardwalkBock
4.64/5  rDev +8.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

A: Dark, ruby red. Light brown hints. Decent head that fades to a messy lacing.

S: Potent but not overpowering bourbon starts it off followed by molasses, caramel, toffee, raisins, dark fruits. Light hint of vanilla as the beer warms.

T: Starts off with big caramel, toffee and dark fruit and finishes off with bourbon, wood and vanilla. Definitely some earthy hops present. Bourbon is not overpowering which allows the base beer to shine, but blends very nicely.

M: Medium bodied, medium carbonation. Slight bitterness.

O: This is a very, very good BA Barleywine. The bourbon is not too overpowering, but blends insanely well with the base beer. Bourbon and vanilla become more prevalent as the beer warms. Top 5 BA BW for sure. Easier to acquire and cheaper than Sucaba, and is in a better format for when I want to have a single 12 oz instead of opening a 750 mL. Recommended!

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Photo of zoober911
4.59/5  rDev +7.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

L - Pours a coppery golden brown. Little to no head.

S - The caramel is tremendous. Caramel, toffee. Dark fruits. Slight bourbon.

T - Silky caramel. Some dark fruit. As these slowly fade you're hit with bourbon on the tail end. Lots of sweet bourbon.

F - Feel is as expected with the style. Carb is spot on.

O - Overall this is awesome. Easily on par with Firestone's Abacus...easily. And much more accessible. I will pick up more before it's gone this season, and this will be my go to for the style.

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Photo of SteveB24
4.08/5  rDev -4.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Very solid beer, sweet but not overwhelmingly so, very complex, has all the delicious flavors one would except from a fine barley wine such as Toffee, Dates, and vanilla. it is just a tad on the boozy side, i think a year on it would go a long way. overall this was a very good beer and i'd definitely recommend it to fans of the style.

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Photo of scream
4.85/5  rDev +13.3%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

2015 Release bought today. I had 1st had this last year and was waiting for this years release. Pour some into a snifter, put your feet up in your favorite chair and just enjoy. It does not get better than this in my experience. Not for the faint of heart, but oh so good on a winter's evening.

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Photo of Bshaw22
4.59/5  rDev +7.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This is solid.
Lots of bourbon Carmel and some bitterness on the taste.
Nose is bourbon and Carmel.
This is a decimate sipper but so enjoyable. One of the best barleywines I've ever had.

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Photo of SanFranJake
4.43/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Had this today (2014 version) after having a 2014 Sucaba last night...CW BBA BW is just as good. Just wish I had access to this as easy as Sucaba is.
But unfortunately I have to trade for this.
Worth the trade though

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Photo of Tilley4
3.17/5  rDev -25.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Boozy and hot... Potential is here but this is like barrel aged rubbing alcohol... Perhaps it's too young? Going against the grain here and giving this one a very mediocre OK...

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Photo of martyl1000
5/5  rDev +16.8%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

I'm having this at midnight, April 3, 2013. I have four 4-packs I bought last December, sitting in storage at 60 deg. for 4 months.

And either I didn't recognize its greatness when it was new, or this little bit of age made this stuff golden. I'm this close to going back downstairs for another one. Aargh--

Good thing I've got a Weyerbacher Insanity in the fridge . . .
This is a "2013", drinking it 11-21-2013, so eleven months of aging.

A clear reddish-caramel in a tulip glass, with very little white head even with an aggressive pour (hence the 11.5% alcohol). Lacing is sparse, but with serious stick-to-it-iveness and dripping legs down the glass.

How I miss this aroma. Brings me right back to snowy April of last year. Bourbon in the nose seems nicely muted compared to my memory of it. I remember the bourbon being pronounced in the aroma. The vanilla, too. Oak and char and melted butter. Simple syrup. Brown sugar and raisin. Yeah, baby.

In the mouth the aging is instantly evident, with the hop bitterness knocked way back (though there's still a ghostly, earthy pine bitterness on the back-end, for sure). The flavor is wonderfully round: soft sugar cookie, ice-cream-caramel swirl, fig and prune, then the bourbon. I put more in the glass, and pie crust fills my nostrils. Plus Juicy Fruit Gum and marshmallow. It's massively toffee sweet, and yet the mild hops and tannins from the oak--not to mention the brightness of the still-respectable boozey ABV--bring balance. It's so huge, it drinks like Dogfish Head 120 minute.

Despite a fairly significant carbonation, the smoothness makes me want to cry. It gives the feel of a super-syrupy moscato di asti. Definitely more an English Barleywine profile, at least after the aging. How astonishing to experience true beer nirvana. I feel like I did two years ago sipping a JW Lees Harvest Ale for the first time.

CW's detractors denounce them as a one-trick (bourbon barrel) pony. Not only is this wrong (duh, Illumination? Exodus? La Petite Mort?). But even if true, this is bourbon-barrel aging at its very best. The barrel aging doesn't dominate, it elevates this brew. I'm looking forward to opening a cellared CW Bourbon Barrel Stout to compare it to their non-barrel aged Brewhouse Coffee Stout I like so much.
Ok, so the look of this pour makes me immediately worry this beer has gone bad in the cellar. It's about 22 months of cellar aging, now. And the physical appearance is one of cloudy gelatin, thick and murky, like badly-stirred Knox Blocks.

But the aroma. My God. It makes me want to become a bourbon drinker.

Then, holy bejeezums, the flavor in the mouth. If this was a perfect 5.0 a year ago, it's now punched through the ratings ceiling. What I hadn't perceived before was the red wine tartness, which helps push the butterscotch sweetness skyward.

I'm grinning like a psych ward inmate on chocolate pudding day that I have ten more bottles in the basement.

Heck, yeah.

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Photo of Roguer
4.14/5  rDev -3.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Beautiful dirty nut brown brew, fairly dark in the glass, topped by a decent creamy tan head. Retention is so-so; lacing is bubbly but sparse.

Huge malty notes of caramel and toffee erupt from the glass, chased by vanilla and bourbon. The bourbon is much stronger on closer, careful sniffs, but not overpowering; there's plenty of room for pecans and walnuts, prunes, chocolate, vanilla, and a complete toasted malt bath.

Flavor follows the nose, with an added bite from earthy and herbal hops. Bourbon up front; followed by caramel, toffee, and toast; and finished with vanilla, chocolate, bourbon, oak, and some alcohol heat.

Long wet finish allows vanilla, chocolate, and bourbon to dance across your gums and tongue in waves. Brew is relatively thin up front, but with a silky wetness that coats your mouth. Lots of alcohol heat, but it's not unpleasant.

This beer tastes like they took the malt boil, poured it into a bourbon barrel, added some green hops, and called it a day. It's absolutely delicious.

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Photo of Shroud0fdoom
4.65/5  rDev +8.6%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

12 oz. Bottle 2013 vintage courtesy of Wiscokid920

I'm trying another beer given to me by a local BA today. I might say *spoiler alert* this is fantastic! Well let's get to the review. This brew is a little mischievous when it comes to the label. Simple label stating just that it was bottled in 2013 and it's barrel aged. Yet it's not labels that make the brew. Time to pour. This pours gorgeous deep brown body with ruby hues. Small light khaki head, minimum lacing. Very impressive! Time for the sniff test. This brew is money! Bourbon Whiskey all the way. Caramel/toffee, toasted nuts, oak, subtle coconut and vanilla! I mean it's rich! Well I just blew a Bourbon load smelling it, let's go for the taste! Just like the aroma, caramel sweetness that carries the bourbon notes to sublime! Huge coconut, vanilla and toasted oak flavors in the aftertaste. Finishes dry with some booze. The feel on this brew is medium-light soft body carbonation helps to make the flavors pop.

Overall: Heh, this brew gets me excited, every time I smell it. This is one of the best Barrel Aged BarleyWines, no lies no gimmicks. It sucks that I can't get this brew regularly, yet it keeps me hoping for the next release of Bourbon County Brand BarleyWine. The mouthfeel holds this brew back from dominating BCBBW. This is now one of my favorite Bourbon Barrel Aged BarleyWines. This is Recommended.

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Photo of VashonGuy
4/5  rDev -6.5%

This beer is easy.

It's easy on the pocketbook ... under $4 for a barrel aged beer.

It's easy on the palate ... incredibly smooth. The bourbon aroma and flavors are there, but they are not overpowering. The underlying barleywine is more subtle than many barleywines ... a wonderful mix of flavors, but not something that knocks you in the face.

And it's easy to miss the alcohol in this one. Somehow that 11.5% ABV gets masked by the wonderful flavors. But the flavors call for sipping, not guzzling, so you should be OK.

Easy to love this one.

Serving from a 2014 bottle into a snifter.

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Photo of kkleu357
4.6/5  rDev +7.5%

From notes on 2/26/14

Nice sweety caramely aroma. Lots of grainy bourbon smell. Dark amber in color. Poured with a nice fluffy head. Great tasting beer. Very sweet. Lots of alcohol burn. Really can pull the bourbon barrel age out of it. One thing to note, I’m drinking mine at around 55° temp. My gf has hers refrigerated. Both are great. The colder one is slightly smoother with less alcohol burn, but not as flavorful. Another great solid barrel aged beer from CW.

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Photo of Sarge3130
3.85/5  rDev -10%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 3.75

2013 vintage poured into Heavy seas tulip

Body is murky copper with thin bubbly head. Smells of plum, candied sugar, and heavy booze. taste is sweet caramel, oak, and alcohol. Thin and prickly mouthfeel. Really booze forward and abrasive.

I let the beer sit out for about 20 minutes to warm and it got better. As it warmed the flavors began to meld together nicely and the mouthfeel became more smooth. Still, nothing Earth shattering but solid BA Barley wine.

Overall: 3.75

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Photo of Bosoxfan20
3.94/5  rDev -7.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

A- Ruby amber. Tan cake like head

S- Huge bourbon and toffee. Lots of vanilla as well. Cheesecake like sweetness detected in the aroma.

T- Rich, true to form English style barlywine. Lots of vanilla again, subtle hops, earthy wood, brown sugar, caramel. Warms really well in the finish. It is pretty damn good, but not big on the aftertaste.

M- Little bit of a bite initially, but settles in. Creamy, silky, yet late bitterness. An interesting tingling or numbing effect.

O- right there with Sucaba.

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Photo of majorbase2
4.41/5  rDev +3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a pleasant looking dark brown. About one finger of light brown head, with decent retention. Leaves a small amount of lacing. Not quite as dark as I expected. A little bit of sediment becomes visible when you get closer to the bottom.

Aroma is sweet malts and booze/bourbon. Lots of caramel, hints of vanilla.

Very syrupy. Sweet. Caramel malts. The caramel sweetness is sensational. Just the slightest hint of citrus. A little bit of alcohol warmth, but overall the booze is masked nicely. The bourbon isn't overpowering. A little bit of vanilla. There is a hint of oak that they are aged in. This is definitely a sweet one. But the sweetness pairs itself with the high ABV to create a formidable taste combo.

Mouthfeel not as heavy as I expected it to be. This one is very syrupy. Not a whole lot of carbonation.

Overall, this is one tasty brew. Like I said, not as heavy as I expected it to be. The alcohol doesn't hit as hard as you might expect from an 11.5%er. Wonderfully sweet. One of the best caramel flavors you'll ever see. I'm not normally a huge fan of bourbon barrel aged beers, but this one is a must-have.

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Photo of stephenjmoore
4.58/5  rDev +7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Thanks to nightfly for this awesome extra.

2014 Vintage

A- Reddish-brown body with some sediment mixed in. I tried to keep most of it in the bottle, but some mixed in with the body. Thin tan head that settles quickly into a layer of bubbles.

S- Caramel, sweet sugar, vanilla, oak, sweet bread. Really robust aroma.

T- Big caramel, vanilla, sweet sugary syrup, hints of toasted malts, toasted oak, molasses. Crazy good flavor with just the slightest alcohol presence. Really nice, especially for a barely aged barleywine.

M- Full bodied, somewhat syrupy, big sweetness that coats the tongue. Medium to low carbonation is spot on.

O- Just a fantastic BBBW. Huge flavors, not too sweet, not too boozy, just terrific.

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Photo of mnredsoxfan69
4.65/5  rDev +8.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

2014 release, poured from a 12 oz. bottle into my favorite tulip glass.

A dark amber pour, like grade A maple syrup, with half a finger of antique ivory head that quickly dissipates to a thin ring around the edge that leaves some spotty lacing on my glass as I sip it. I swirl the liquid in my glass and smell traces of bourbon, caramelized sugar and faint alcohol. Complex flavors wash over my tongue as I sip it: bourbon and caramelized sugar, vanilla, maraschino cherries, and just a touch of bitterness at the end with a long, protracted finish. Warm, almost hot on my tongue, creamy and strongly alcoholic, reminiscent of amaretto and rich bourbon mixed together.

Overall, I would put this up against any Belgian quad or dark strong for the beauty of its complexity, and overall taste. I've read that it gets even better with age. Well, I've got three more bottles and I may pick up more in the next week or so. This is heading for the cellar.

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Photo of GreesyFizeek
4.8/5  rDev +12.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 5

Bottle received in a trade. Thanks jgam115! 1,100th rating or review!

Central Waters Brewer's Reserve- Barleywine Ale. Malt beverage aged in used oak bourbon barrels. Let's go!

Pours a murky brown, with some garnet hues. A small half inch head fizzy head descends quickly. Not a whole lot of lacing, and some visible carbonation.

Smells really incredible- I basically exclaimed "oh fuck" when I first smelled it. Strong brown sugar and toffee, some sweet sultry bourbon, and maple syrup.

The taste is similarly awesome. Just so many flavors from the clearly superior base barleywine, whatever it is, plus so many added flavors from the barrel aging. Strong maple syrup, some candied raisins and plums, brown sugar, toffee, sweet bourbon, rich, strong vanilla, light coconut, and some pleasant wood bitterness. There's a small amount of hop bitterness. The maple and vanilla flavor in this one is so strong, it almost tastes like it was made with them as adjuncts, which shows the strong brewing talents of the folks over at Central Waters.

This brew is medium bodied, but feels light and silky on the tongue. Really quite drinkable, which is a miracle, given the 11.5% ABV. The booze doesn't show up much at first, but as it warms, it becomes a bit spicy, but warming and awesome. Low carbonation, despite it's visible presence after the pour.

This is really awesome. It's barreled perfectly, it's got to be one of the smoothest barleywines I've ever had. It's decadent, and a rare treat to drink.

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Photo of MaximalC
4.38/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.5

Pours a murky, burnt honey color akin to apple cider, with a thin cap of khaki foam. The aroma is absolutely delicious, consisting of dark fruit, toffee, molasses, currants, blackberries, bourbon, and alcohol. I'd strongly recommend taking a few minutes to sniff this straight from the bottle...

The taste is sweet and malty up front with bourbon in the middle, along with a hoppy twinge that attempts to make way for itself from middle to back. The sweetness is highly complex and difficult to pin down, but I'd venture to describe it as tasting of wine grapes, raisins, toffee, butterscotch, vanilla, and caramel. Dark fruit isn't as present as the nose would suggest, but it does manage to emerge as the beer warms (particularly the currants). The resinous hops, which felt somewhat conflicted initially, also begin to meld better as the beer warms. The woody character of the bourbon barrels adds yet another layer of complexity. The finish is downright profound, as rich, warming alcoholic vapors envelope the back of the mouth and throat like dragon's breath. The immense staying power makes the finish a preternatural entity unto itself (not unlike the aroma). A candied stickiness lingers on the lips with each sip. The mouthfeel is fairly loose and slick for such a big beer, but it doesn't detract at all from the experience.

Overall, this is a damn fine barleywine that affords an extravaganza for the senses. From the seductive aroma to the bombastic taste, there are no false steps here. I appreciate how Central Waters didn't try to go too hop forward like some American barleywines, instead opting to let the malt and bourbon take center stage. A sipper though it may be, that only serves to prolong the enjoyment. The only other barleywine I've tried on par with this is Sucaba, so that comparison should pretty much speak for itself.

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Photo of JohnnyHopps
4.1/5  rDev -4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I aged a 2012 for about a year and half to see what happens. I though the beer has initially rather harsh.

Appearance - The beer was golden brown color. It is a little lighter in color than I am used to for a bourbon barrel barleywine. No head or lacing was noted.

Smell - The bourbon is noted in a big way, with a certain level of sweetness to the aroma.

Taste - On the initial taste, the warmth of the bourbon bursts. This is still hot. Notes of grassy caramel, burnt malt, and dark fruits follow the burn. The aspect of this one I enjoy most are the caramel notes. The bourbon notes lack vanilla and really do not add much more than a burn. The aftertaste is pretty heavy burn. This bourbon barleywine is not as smooth as some of its counterparts. Aging did little for this one.

Mouthfeel - The barleywine lacked smoothness because of the burn. This also prevents me from suggesting this to be an easy drinker.

Overall - I much prefer Central Waters Bourbon Barrel Stout to the barelywine. It is far too harsh for my liking.

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Brewer's Reserve Bourbon Barrel Barleywine from Central Waters Brewing Co.
95 out of 100 based on 574 ratings.